2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Sebastian C. Schuh, CEIBS

Sebastian C. Schuh

Assistant Professor of Management

China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)

What makes some business leaders more successful than others? Why are some organizations better able to build trust and buy-in than others? These are the questions that keep Sebastian Schuh awake at night. They are also the motifs that run across his research, which emphasizes team dynamics, communication, and organizational identity.

Just two years into his tenure at CEIBS, Schuh has made a splash at the school. All of 36 years of age, he has already published twenty articles and book chapters, including work that has appeared in such prestigious titles as the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Business Ethics, and the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. His work is so respected that he received the CEIBS Research and Excellence Award in 2016. According to Dr. Shimin Chen, the school’s associate dean and MBA program director, this research has already paid heavy dividends in the classroom.  

“Integrating the latest research, he has introduced several innovative and well-received courses in our MBA program,” Chen points out. “For example, he designed a new course which incorporates insights and exercises from theatre and acting to enhance students’ leadership skills, impact, and charisma. This course is unique at business schools in Asia and has been repeatedly rated highly by our students as one of the best courses they have ever taken.”

Age: 36

At current institution since: 2013

Education: Ph.D., Organizational Psychology, 2011 from Goethe University Frankfurt

List of courses you currently teach: I mainly teach courses on leadership, decision making, and effective communication to MBA, Finance MBA, and Executive MBA students

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Most of my research is on leadership effectiveness (e.g., why are some leaders more successful in motivating and inspiring their employees?) and organizational identification (e.g., what helps employees to identify with their organizations?).  One of the key contributions has been on the identity-transfer model. In a nutshell, we showed how leaders’ identification with their company rubs off on their employees. This, in turn, leads to improved employee performance and health.

Professor you most admire: I admire many of my colleagues – especially professors who make great contributions to their research field, who are passionate about helping their students grow, and / or who make their knowledge available to the public. One professor who combines all these aspects (and who probably gets mentioned a lot) is Adam Grant, Professor of Management at Wharton. And he is not only an excellent professor; he is also an extremely kind and helpful person.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I was doing a research internship at Aston Business School, almost 15 years ago. The professors involved me in some of their research projects and I was invited to their brown-bag seminars. I was fascinated by the swirling atmosphere – professors and Ph.D. students were excited about their latest research findings, eager to discuss and to help each other to explore new insights.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I might still be a strategy consultant. Before joining academia, I worked in that field for a couple of years to gain first-hand experience in the business world. I enjoyed working on some of the key business challenges for our clients – in a dynamic and inspiring team environment.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Exciting. My first class was during the MBA orientation, the first course for our students. We taught in CEIBS’ big auditorium and the room was filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. We provided students with an exercise on building effective teams and they loved it! They were keen to get to know their teams and to start their MBA journey.

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: Recently, I received a thank you e-mail from one of our exchange students. He attended the class on “leadership and acting”, where we use techniques from theatre and acting to help students become more persuasive and more charismatic. He is now using the course content to help other students become more charismatic. I think being copied in that way is very rewarding.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Last year, CEIBS presented me with its research excellence award. I have to admit that I am very proud of this, given my passion for research and all the time and effort that I have spent on it over the years.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? Being a professor is a fantastic and rewarding job – it has a purpose and provides a lot of autonomy. The aspects I enjoy the most are new research insights and helping my students to develop their skills.

Fun fact about yourself: This is a bit of an odd one, but there are probably few people who eat more muesli than me. I like the taste, the simple process to prepare it, and that it is healthy. And there are numerous variations (many more than people imagine). So I won’t get tired of it.  

Bucket list item #1: I try to learn one new thing every year. Currently, kitesurfing is planned for 2017.

Favorite book: One of my favorite books is “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman – a very revealing account of how we really think and make decisions.  

Favorite movie: The Godfather is a classic; it made me think about society and human nature.

Favorite type of music: Different types of music fit different moments in life. I often listen to energetic songs during the day and play classical music in the evenings.

Favorite television show: I hardly ever watch TV. But “Quest Means Business” is a good show, especially when the host interviews top leaders from big organizations.

Favorite vacation spot: Generally, I enjoy travelling to places that let me get close to nature, have a great culture, and / or interesting people. Some of my favorites include Myanmar, China, and Peru.

What are your hobbies? To relax and widen my horizon, I enjoy sports (tennis, biking, climbing), visiting foreign countries, and good conversations with my friends and colleagues.

Twitter handle: I don’t have a twitter account.  

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…I am looking forward to further developments of the flipped classroom technique. If students have the opportunity to watch lectures online before the class, there will be more time for in-class discussion, exercises, and individual feedback. This will make learning much more sustainable and help students to really absorb and apply their new knowledge.”

Students say:

“Sebastian Schuh is a professor who dedicates himself entirely, each class, to a singular goal: that each student gain some morsel of lasting value. You have to experience it to feel Schuh’s mastery, but the result: students from all over the world engaging in leadership activities that both approximate local culture and also expand horizons in the business world at large, all while imparting a deeper sense of self and community. Dr. Schuh is truly one of a kind, and a gem at any institution lucky enough to retain him.”

“It was an honor and privilege to be a student of Professor Schuh’s while studying at CEIBS. In each of the three classes I took with him, he wowed me with his ability to instruct, engage, and captivate the class through innovative and participatory lessons. He is supremely generous with his time, energy, and thoughtfulness, and ranks among the very best in any age group, in any field. I am sure that I represent our entire student body when I say that he is not only OUTSTANDING, but ASTOUNDING.”

Rigorous, rational, humble and intelligent, except for these common images for the German, Professor Schuh is also incredibly energetic and creative on all his lectures. Moreover, he obtains the talent to surprise and excite students on class always, using his highly interactive and intriguing teaching methods which can even turn an MBA classroom to a playground. His deep understanding on business leadership and effective communication hides the dry theories under the disguise of games or group tasks perfectly that students can absorbed naturally but deeply. From a business school student’s perspective, such witness is not merely a great teaching skill, but also a crucial ability and management skill to learn from as a business leader.”

“Professor Schuh excels at engaging with the students as he knows how to play the audience and keeps all interested using good voice control and clever anecdotes. It is clear that he has mastered that which he is teaching us. The tools he uses are easy to remember and help us build confidence in a natural way. It is this style that made me choose his other course on decision making.”

“Sebastian is able to captivate and engage us students like hardly anybody with his energetic nature and beautifully crafted slides. He truly showcases what he tries to teach in his classes by being a great example in terms of communication and leadership, his focus areas.”

Our MBA journey started with Professor Schuh, a German professor who seems always be happy with big smiles, which was quite opposite to the normal stereotype of Germans but seems to be quite normal for a top-quality HR professor. His class was always fun; and, he was never hard to approach by his students – you could just find him in the cafeteria right after classes. Those who also took his “Leadership and Acting-Unleashing your Leadership Potential through Acting Techniques” class, had reportedly to have the best memories of this school and this MBA journey. For all matters, we are grateful to have Professor Schuh here at CEIBS and wish his smiles and classes would influence more and more people in the future.”

“Prof. Schuh is very passionate in teaching. He always enlightens his students with rich and most updated teaching materials, and teaches in a very innovative and interactive way. When he teaches communications, he made himself the best example in front of us – the way he speaks, the way he moves, the manner he presents his ideas and the way he interacts with us are all well integrated with what he tries to deliver to us. I’m very lucky to be his student at CEIBS and he has impacted the way of my professional communication in my workplace, which has contributed significantly to my career advancement.”